Yarmouth school budget includes pre-K, new mental health staff

Making pre-kindergarten available to all Yarmouth families and adding staff to address student mental health concerns are included in the school department’s $34.6 million budget proposal, which is up 10.7% over this year’s spending plan.

If approved, the schools’ share of the total municipal budget would mean an increase of around 8.6%, 0r $1.70 over the $19.80 tax rate. The owner of a $700,000 home would see a $1,190 increase in their annual tax bill, not including taxes resulting from the town portion of the total budget.

Combined with the proposed town budget, Yarmouth’s tax rate for fiscal year 2023 would be $21.86, a 10.4%, or $2.06 increase from this year, according to the most recent figures available.

Those figures, however, do not include $207,000 in cuts to the $15.2 million town budget that were approved at a March 28 Town Council meeting. Those cuts include $50,000 from road reserves, $30,000 for a real estate revaluation, $30,000 shifted from the general budget to the tax increment financing fund, and updated projections for health insurance costs that decreased by $10,000.

Council Chairperson April Humphrey said the $207,000 in reductions should bring the overall projected tax increase down to about 10%.

Adding pre-K at the now K-1 Rowe School would cost about $572,000, while $155,500 has been budgeted for a district-wide, part-time school psychologist, a part-time social worker at Harrison Middle School and a part-time social worker for the pre-K program. In addition, $178,000 has been budgeted to expand the world language program at the Rowe School and Yarmouth Elementary School.

“As we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion and what those terms mean… introducing world language and introducing pre-K really speaks to that,” School Committee member Newell Augur said at the March 17 council meeting. ” … I think it says a lot for expanding pre-K and making that available to all families in the district and not just those of means who can afford it.”

The additional staff for “social-emotional learning has a lot to do with our leftover pandemic response,” Augur said.

“It’s not just for COVID; we’re faced with a number of (mental health) challenges and that number was going up even before COVID.”

Yarmouth school officials are projecting the district will receive $7.7 million in state aid, which is almost $1 million more than the town received this year.

It is still early in the budget process and Town Manager Nat Tupper said over the next two weeks the council will discuss requests from the school.

The first public hearing on the school budget will be April 7 at the American Legion Log Cabin, 196 Main St., at 7 pm The meeting will also be available online; Links to all town council meetings can be found at yarmouth.me.us.

More information on the school budget and upcoming meetings can be found at yarmouthschools.org/page/budget.

Town council will hold its next budget workshop April 4 at 6 pm, in person at the Log Cabin and virtually.

The full budget will be voted on at the annual town meeting June 7.

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